Gary Buckland v Gavin Rees 1 – Fight of the Year

Gary Buckland v Gavin Rees 1 – Fight of the Year

BoxingWales Annual Awards 2014 Gary Buckland vs Gavin Rees 1 – Fight of the Year Pre-fight promises go unfulfilled too often, the hype becoming a victim of it’s own ambition. It’s a common occurrence in a sport that requires supreme self-confidence from its combatants. However, there are occasions when little noise is made, only tense murmurs are heard as both boxers know that there’s little they can do to avoid the oncoming testing conflict… and then a classic encounter ensues. That was exactly the case when Gary ‘Dynamo’ Buckland (29-6, 9KO) and Gavin ‘The Rock’ Rees (38-4-1, 18KO) went to war in February. They fought at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on Matchroom Sport’s ‘Reloaded’ show, a new chapter for Welsh boxing. It was only the second time Buckland had fought in his hometown, while Newbridge’s Rees was returning to the scene of his WBA world and European title wins in what would turn out to be the penultimate appearance of his career. Neither boxer had ever called each other out but it was a contest those in Welsh boxing had wondered about for some time. It had never looked likely due to a difference in weights and promoters but with both coming off losses, it was made possible and it was worth all the years of waiting. The pair had sparred tens of rounds together on numerous occasions in the past but they still weren’t wise to each other’s arsenal, managing to land heavy three and four punch combinations on a regular basis over 12 torturous rounds. Both were at a disadvantage, with Buckland moving 5lbs north from super-featherweight to lightweight and it was no secret that Rees’ recent years had been plagued by injuries. It’s likely that these factors contributed to the cause of fearsome exchanges throughout. In the opening rounds, Rees circled a keen Buckland who marked up early, most notably with a cut to his left eye and a blood red complexion to his torso, courtesy of Rees’ unbelievably brutal body punches. Nonetheless, Buckland stalked, loading up with power shots and looking to make his own mark. By the middle rounds, Rees’ legs had slowed and his once elusive head movement was now static, he opted to squeeze up his defence as Buckland’s volume punching surged. Buckland, six years younger than his opponent, appeared to have the extra energy in his limbs as the fight wore on, managing to score with eye-catching flurries of arm punches. Both boxers were barely apart from each other all fight and they stood shoulder-to-shoulder for the remaining four rounds but surprisingly, it was Rees ducking and diving to push forward and Buckland boxing on the back foot. This time, it was Buckland squeezing up as he sucked in more brutal body punches from Rees, bravely getting his breath back to ambush Rees when his approach overreached. For a derby, there was a lack of local needle and the 5,000 fans in attendance were eerily silent, almost as if they didn’t know which Welshman to support. Such was the respect between the camps that the trainers, Tony Borg and Gary Lockett, regularly saw each other in the build up as Lee Selby and Maxi Hughes, respective stable-mates of Buckland and Rees, shared spars to prepare the Barry boy for Rendall Munroe’s southpaw stance. In the final round, both boxers embraced in a genuine display of brotherhood, before proceeding to go toe-to-toe for one final round. At the last bell, it was generally felt that both were worthy winners and whoever the decision went to, deserved it. It was Buckland’s hand which was raised, courtesy of a fitting Split Decision. Three months later, they would do it all again in another classic. In a more clear contest, Rees prevailed and closed the curtain on a glittering career. Watch the fight here: Notable mentions: Gavin Rees v Gary Buckland 2, Luke Osman v Jimmy White, Bradley Pryce v Lee Markham, Dai Davies v Robbie Turley. Previous winners: 2013, Frankie Borg v Gary Cooper. 2012, Tony Pace v Lance Sheehan. Images by Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom Sport.

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